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A former Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland military training instructor pleaded guilty Thursday to wrongful sexual contact, unprofessional relationships and related charges of adultery and making a false official statement but denied that he raped a former recruit.
Staff Sgt. Eddy Soto could receive up to 11 years in prison and a dishonorable discharge on the charges he admitted to at a court-martial at the base. If convicted on the rape charge, to which he pleaded not guilty, he faces up to a life sentence.
The case is still ongoing.
Soto is the 10th MTI to either face a judge or jury in an evolving sexual misconduct scandal at Lackland. One of those had his case dismissed after a judge ruled evidence against him was obtained improperly. The other nine have been convicted on some or all of their charges.
The alleged rape victim testified during an Article 32 hearing in November that she and Soto began a romantic relationship about a year and a half after she finished basic training, the San Antonio Express-News reported. Soto had been her instructor at Lackland in 2010. She testified he raped her when she flew to his home from California in 2011.
“He just started having sex with me,” the newspaper quoted the woman as saying. “I said, ‘No, I’m not ready.’”
Like most of the alleged Lackland victims, she did not report the incident, said Brent Boller, a base spokesman. The Air Force Office of Special Investigations sought the woman out after her name surfaced in connection with Soto’s during a sweeping investigation of basic training soon after the scandal began to unfold.
The woman, who spent about two hours on the stand, also said she returned to San Antonio to visit Soto at least two times following the alleged assault, Boller said.
Rita Chung, a cross-cultural specialist from Virginia’s George Mason University, testified at Soto’s trial that the woman’s actions were consistent with someone influenced by Southeast Asian culture, he said. The former recruit is of Southeast Asian decent.
Chung said the culture places mentors and teachers in high esteem and that victims of sexual assault are sometimes viewed as tainted and could be isolated from their family and community.
The Air Force has identified at least 62 former trainees victimized in the scandal, which ushered in significant changes at basic military training. More than half of those had graduated from BMT at the time of their involvement with trainers, and 11 of the relationships involved no physical contact. Ten of the cases involve allegations of sexual assault.
All but four of the 62 former trainees are women.
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